Why you can trust Jerry
Jerry partners with some of the companies we write about. However, our content is written and reviewed by an independent team of editors and licensed insurance agents, and never influenced by our partnerships. Learn more baout how we make money, review our editorial standards, reference out data methodology, or view a list of our partners
While trailers are mostly associated with travel and road trips, it’s not uncommon to hear about people living in them. Even living and/or working in an RV or vehicle has become more frequently seen. However, officially having your car be your home, is less common.
The economy and cost of homes and rent are causing more people to turn to other means of living while still bringing in a paycheck.
The Supreme Court recently upheld a Seattle-based court ruling that a person's vehicle can in fact be their home.
A blue-collar worker living out of his truck
From credit score checks for affordable insurance to just saving enough money to have a roof over your head, getting by in day-to-day life is a struggle for disenfranchised people.
Since 2014, Steven Long has been working as a part-time janitor and handyman, trying to save money for an apartment. In 2016 Steven Long’s home was impounded by Seattle police because he parked it on a public unused gravel lot for more than three days.
Impounded vehicles are usually sold at public auction after a ruling has been made that the violator can not pay the fines to retrieve the vehicle. Once it has been sold, the impounding company gets its share and the city gets the remainder.
Often the vehicles are bought by individuals who then rent them back to the original owner, causing more problems for the financially unstable.
For Long he just hoped his car wasn’t sold yet because his truck contained his work tools and all his other possessions. So once the truck was taken, not only was Long unable to work, he was also forced to spend his days outside.
Autoblog reported that the court magistrate waived the $44 fine and placed Long on a payment plan of $50 per month.
He was able to retrieve his truck just before it was to be sold at auction. Had the vehicle been sold, Long would have lost all of his possessions and his ability to work and save for an apartment. Long later took the city to court over the incident.
Can a truck be impounded if it’s your home?
Longs’ lawyers agreed that the incident could be considered unconstitutional. The Eighth Amendment protects individuals from cruel and unusual punishment, and Long's case fits the cruel and unusual.
Washington's Supreme Court ruled on August 12, 2021, that the seizure and impounding of Long's truck was indeed unconstitutional because the truck is in fact his home.
The fines that Long was charged with, according to the Seattle Times, totaled $944 for his impound costs. Even though $44 was waived, that left Long with a $900 bill to pay $50 monthly out of his average income of $300-$600 a month.
The ruling’s impact
The ruling is a huge step for the homeless people who move their vehicles every few days to avoid impounds. Even though the vehicles can no longer be impounded, the three-day rule still exists to keep non-working vehicles off public property.
After the court case, Long returned to living in his truck without the fines hanging over his head. He continues to work to earn his way to a new apartment. The only difference is that he now has a better working truck and is more confident he won't lose everything for parking it too long.